Four in One

Posted by ardeidae on April 29, 2006

A few weeks ago, Charlie Moores, a fellow blogger who runs Charlie's Bird Blog emailed me letting me know he was going to be in the Los Angeles area. I'd never met Charlie before, but had exchanged several emails with him. We even tried meeting up in February, but plans ended up falling through. That was probably for the better though, since his schedule ended up bringing him back through Southern California at a much more opportune time—during migration. Since Charlie has been birding much longer than I have, and has seen much of California's avifauna, I knew I needed to pull in a heavy hitter to help maximize his birding experience. Many thanks go to fellow Los Angeles Auduoner and mentor, Irwin, who agreed to fill that role. Irwin started birding when he was a kid, and has since racked up over 60 years of experience. He's a crack birder by both eye and ear, so I knew we wouldn't have very many birds go unidentified.

Charlie drove up to the San Fernando Valley from Redondo Beach and met me at my place a little after 7am. We then met up with Irwin and headed up to Walker Ranch at Placerita Canyon. As we made our way down the entry road, we approached the bunches of currants on the right-hand side of the road. It's usually a popular spot for hummingbirds, and today was no exception. Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna), Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae), and Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) were all buzzing about loading up on their morning calories. A Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) fluttered about, in the scraggy tree roots and brush trying to go unidentified, but it didn't take long and Irwin had a bead on it.

Northern Flicker
The creek had a fair amount of water flowing through from the recent days' storms, but was easily crossable without soaking the feet. The sun had woken most of the avian sleepers up and they were all about. We took our time scouring the area and ended up with some really nice finds. Among those seen were Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), Nuttall's Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis), Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans), Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica), American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Common Raven (Corvus corax), Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus), Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus), Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii), House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata), Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata), Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

We took off from there around 10 and headed down Little Tujunga Road to see if we could catch sight of the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in the area, but no luck. The drive alone was well worth it though, winding through the mountainous terrain getting good looks at the valley below. What a fantastic sight. We made our way to the 210 and headed east toward Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, to find our target bird for the day.

California Gnatcatcher
While in search of Restroom 7, the landmark of our target bird, we caught some good birds, including a Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana), a bathing Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), and a Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). As we found our spot and searched the Prickly Pear Cactus, Charlie spotted and yelled out our target bird...the California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica). He'd never seen one before in real life, but you'd never had guessed it. He knew exactly what he was looking at.
Western Bluebird
It was fairly elusive, but allowed us to get some great shots before taking off. It was a great lifer for me too! What a wonderful bird. We continued up the trail, where we stopped to scan the lake below. Among the bird life were Great Egret (Ardea alba), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), Bonaparte's Gull (Larus philadelphia), and Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia). As we headed down the hill, a group of three Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) circled in a mating display, talons outstretched. As we headed toward the car, another Western Bluebird flew by, this time posing for a few shots. We also heard some metallic knocking, and quickly found the source— a Nuttall's Woodpecker clinging to the side of a metal light pole attempting to retrieve whatever bugs it thought it was going to find. Or maybe it was just sending a long-distance morse code. I hope it was the latter.

Other birds seen at Bonelli Park were Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis), Oak Titmouse, Bushtit, Bewick's Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Wrentit, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, California Towhee, Dark-eyed Junco, Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), and Lesser Goldfinch.

Ring-necked Duck
Irwin had to cut out, so when we got back to Studio City, Charlie and I hopped in my car and drove down Coldwater Canyon to Mulholland, then into Franklin Canyon Reservoir, where the Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, and a number of other shows and movies were shot. We first stopped by the small pond, where there were the regular Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), and Mallard. A Spotted Towhee even stopped by to say hello. Every now and then, a male Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) shows up to crash the party, but not this time. As we scouted the lake, things were pretty quiet, except for the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) that stood out tall on a high tree overlooking everything that was (or in this case, wasn't) going on.

Red-winged Blackbird
After the short stop, we headed over to a local favorite, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. When you first approach, there are usually lots of people enjoying the sun: playing cricket or soccer, flying kites, or picnicing. If you're new to birding it, you may wonder "what kind of birds could possibly be here?", but once you hit the gate, the sounds of music and playing kids are replaced by the sounds of bird flutter and song.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
We hadn't yet seen an Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) for the day, but the last time I was there a male was quite cooperative in allowing me to take some photos. It wasn't long until we spotted him in the same area as before. The island housed a couple of occupied Double-crested Cormorant condos, totalling about a dozen nests in all. A Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) sat still long enough to get a good portrait taken. A flight of Northern Rough-winged Swallows swooped about. They're hard to photograph in the air, but about half of them took time out to rest and preen, which allowed us to get some good shots.

We finally wrapped things up around 5pm. It had been a great day of birding with a total of four stops and a bunch of wonderful sightings. Despite working really long flights, getting very little sleep, and carrying a bodily clock that often varies greatly from the locations he's in, it's amazing how Charlie can maintain his energy to visit the places he does and the alertness to identify the wide variety of birds he sees. It's all for the birds! Make sure to check out his report for this trip as well as all the others he's gone on. I look forward to birding with Charlie again.

What a great day you all had, Jason!  Congratulations on the lifer and the list.  I always enjoy your trip reports—usually such different birding experiences from my own and therefore fascinating.

Posted by Home Bird  on  05/04  at  06:43 PM

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